Cookie banner

This site uses cookies. Select "Block all non-essential cookies" to only allow cookies necessary to display content and enable core site features. Select "Accept all cookies" to also personalize your experience on the site with ads and partner content tailored to your interests, and to allow us to measure the effectiveness of our service.

To learn more, review our Cookie Policy, Privacy Notice and Terms of Use.

clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 38 Essential Online Shopping Experiences, Winter 2013

New, 6 comments

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Hello everyone, and welcome to the Winter 2013 edition of the Racked 38! A fair amount has changed since the Summer 2012 list was published. We've cut nine sites from last season to make room for newcomers and the favorites you've requested to hear more about.

Bloomingdale's has been replaced by a pleasantly revitalized Nordstrom in the department store category. Also gone are Accessorize, J Brand, Forever 21, A.P.C., LnA and Creatures of Comfort (which have found a happy new home on our Indie 38), and Urban Outfitters (not entirely because of this, but it definitely didn't help their cause).

In their places you'll find new e-tailer Everlane, which also won Racked's Award for New Shopping Site of the Year, Club Monaco, Bauble Bar, MObama favorite Tracy Reese, Need Supply Co., Yoox, British import Reiss, boutique collective Farfetch, and Stylebop.

So, without further ado, here they are: The 38 essential online shopping destinations, in no particular order. Got opinions on our choices? Let us know in the comments.

Net-a-Porter. Whether or not you can afford any of the to-die-for designer duds on Net-a-Porter's pages, take note of this site, because it's constantly raising the bar and pushing the envelope for what e-commerce can, and should, be. Hundreds of designers, pages of exclusive editions, and a weekly magazine that gives your favorite glossy a decent run for its money explain why the site's paving the way for the future of online shopping.

Shopbop. The online powerhouse has a seemingly bottomless inventory of cute, on-trend staples from current brands. It's one of our first internet stops no matter what we're shopping for, earning them our Site of the Year Award for 2012.

Opening Ceremony. Opening Ceremony has a reputation for catering to the bohemian bourgeois set, and the vibe in the stores can be intimidating if you're not, say, Agyness Deyn. But the collections are stunning (if pricey), and the the website embraces a tone that's more come-as-you-are than cooler-than-thou.

Reiss: This British high-street brand is a KMid favorite for good reason: elegant, classic pieces with a youthful twist is what you'll find here, with pricing that doesn't require a royal allowance. Modern blazers, contemporary shift dresses, and cute suiting are highlights, and though you can expect to spend a couple hundo on a shift dress or blazer, the sales run deep and you'll hang on to the investments for years.

Warby Parker. It's rare that a niche concept has such broad reach, but everyone seems to want to get down with Warby Parker's chic $95 frames. Bonus: The eyewear company donates one pair of glasses to someone in need for every purchase, which is pretty rad.

J.Crew. We love so much about J. Crew: the cool-girl-next-door basics, the moderate price points, the modern styling, the fun photography. It's a company that had its origins in catalog sales, so it makes sense that its website shopping experience—everything from presentation to customer service—outdoes the in-store experience by a candy-colored mile. This year's collaborations with Vogue Fashion Fund winners Joseph Altuzarra, Pamela Love, and Creatures of the Wind have only upped the ante.

Aloha Rag. When it comes to aspirational shopping-browsing-drooling, this is one of our favorite destinations. The first Aloha Rag boutique opened in 1991 on Oahu in Hawaii and since then the brand has grown into two additional flagships and an e-commerce site that focuses on the American, European, and Japanese avant-garde designers. Cheap it is not, but there's plenty of inspiration to be found in the collections and on the blog—even if you're browsing rather than buying.

Rent the Runway. An internet-only opportunity, Rent the Runway took a gamble that girls would rather borrow a knock-em-dead, remember-forever, wear-it-once designer party dress for a relatively affordable fee than cough up a month's rent to buy it. Judging from the site's success since its launch in 2009, they were right.

DVF. DVF makes the cut because, aside from being a go-to shopping destination for almost every woman we know, the site is great. Easy to navigate and shop, you can find Diane von Furstenberg's entire collection of apparel, shoes, and accessories in one place. Bonus: Diane publishes an infrequently updated but totally addictive online diary here, so you can also get your fill of jet-set inspiration and words of wisdom from the guru of femininity herself.

Kate Spade. Brand devotees and bargain hunters alike should have this one bookmarked. Kate Spade's peppy prep has been pushing the envelope recently, with collaborations with the likes of Garance Dore and of Malia Mills, and their website is the best place to get in on all the lifestyle action they've been pushing. It's also a great place to find deals on the brand's wares—the sales section is updated frequently, and the discounts can run deep.

Tracy Reese: When Michelle Obama wears your dresses on the regular, you know you're in for a good year. Especially if it just happens to be an election year. We predict Tracy Reese's popularity will continue to sky rocket this Inauguration season as women scour the internet for FLOTUS-approved dresses and cardigans.

Everlane: Winner of Racked's reader's choice award Best New Shopping Site of 2012, Everlane has made remarkable headway since launching a little over a year ago. Their shistck is that but cutting out the storefront, they can bring you a $50 t-shirt for only $15—and at this point they've expanded well beyond the tees that put them on the map. The site now offers cashmere sweaters, silk blouses, and a handful of simple-chic accessories.

StyleMint. Of all the BeachMint properties, the Olsen twin–endorsed StyleMint is our favorite for its consistently wearable fashion tees with very budget-friendly prices. And they've been increasing their offerings to go beyond basic tees—ready-to-wear items, cashmere options, and $30 sunglasses are all part of the StyleMint experience now.

Burberry. This British heritage brand is no stranger to reinvention. Though the company's DNA is rooted in the humble trench coat, their high-fashion runway collections are consistent favorites, and they get extra credit for being one of the first brands to understand the street-driven spirit of today's shopping scene. The Sartorialist-shot Art of the Trench site (launched way back in 2009) pioneered the blogger-brand lovefest that has followed.

Ann Taylor. It's not the edgiest of brands, but not everyone wants to dress like Chloe Sevigny. Nor should they. Ann Taylor keeps it classy on the World Wide Web with killer ad campaigns, a wildly active Facebook page, and inventive online extras, like their Style for Students blog.

Gilt. The grandmother of flash-sale sites, Gilt invented the concept of flash shopping back in 2007 and basically changed the landscape of e-commerce...not to mention lunch hour. Now, the site is pushing to expand beyond flash sales with exclusive online shops—this spring's debut of Brian Atwood's first handbag collection, for example.

EBay Fashion. There's no getting around the fact that shopping eBay is a bit of a shitshow—despite the site's attempts to elevate auction shopping from a hunt-and-peck experience to a full-fledged marketplace, with curated selections, designer boutiques, and style content. Still, it remains a no-brainer for designer scores and your own consignment needs.

Asos. If you're on a shopping mission with only, say, $100 to spend, this should be one of your first stops. In addition to affordable ready-to-wear from more than 800 brands, the site hosts an eBay-style marketplace where you can sell your own stuff and score some great vintage, to boot.

Target. Over the past year, Target's frenzy-inducing blockbuster collaborations haven't been falling a little short of expectation. Though it remains to be seen if the era of the collab is truly over, Target stays on the 38 out of respect for their fashion history and for being one of the few places you can always find a cute gift or accessory for under $30.

Stylebop: Europeans have been shopping this site for years, but it's remained under America's radar until now. The German-based e-tailer has an extensive collection of luxury contemporary and designer goods—similar in selection to Net-a-Porter, but with less inventory, making it easier to browse. Our favorite part is that all products are shot in zoomable 360-degree views, so you can really get a good look at that Jil Sander cape before you click "add to cart."

Yoox: Ask any street-style star what their favorite shopping destination is, and chances are Yoox will be named in their top three. Though the amount of inventory is a bit daunting—paralyzing, you might even say—for designer-label fiends who know what they're looking for, there's no better online destination. Bonus: Sales have been known to go as deep as 90%.

Bauble Bar: Fun is the key word at this super affordable online-only jewelry shop. Collaborations with online fashion stars, like Leandra Medine of the Man Repeller and DKNY PR Girl, give some spirited fashion credibility to the site, and daily new products mean you'll never get tired of scrolling.

Moda Operandi. If you are the kind of shopper that sees an ikat print blouse on the runway and say to yourself, "I simply must have that!" then this is the site for you. The schtick is simple: pre-order designer collections shortly after they've debuted on the catwalk and receive your package when the stock arrives a few months later.

FarFetch. This genius site lets you shop hundreds of international fashion boutiques on one, easy e-commerce platform. It's the first place we go look for sold-out or hard-to-find items and it's also a great source for European brands that can be difficult to track down in the US.

Madewell. Cool and affordable are the two words we most often use to describe J.Crew's edgier cousin. The brand's creative director puts it like this: "I want to make sure we're giving [the customer] something beautiful, something with integrity, but I don't want her to take out a loan to get it." Sold.

Zara. Euro import Zara has been a brick-and-mortar favorite since the first store opened its doors—even though a trip there means searching through sale piles and chasing after beleaguered clerks to find your size. When the brand launched its US website in September 2011, girls all over the country breathed a collective sigh of relief at the thought of getting access to the super affordable, fashion-forward pieces—without ever having to enter a store again.

Barneys. There's only one Barneys New York, and like the original on Madison Avenue, is the gold standard when it comes to luxury department store shopping. Unapologetically high-end, it's got an Old World, old-school commitment to fashion and quality, and though the website has had its struggles with technical difficulties, the selection is incomparable.

Topshop. The high-street favorite had lines that suffocated Soho when it opened its first US flagship in 2009. Luckily, the stateside launch also included e-commerce, making it a favorite no matter where you're located. Without the lines.

Of A Kind. Emerging designers get their due here, where a limited-edition piece, designed exclusively for the site, is featured each week. Editions can be as small as five pieces, so visiting early and often is recommended.

Anthropologie. The romantic, girly vibe of the stores translates perfectly to Anthro's shopping site. Extras, like their charming Tumblr and a microsite dedicated to favorite artists, invite you to put off whatever it is you're supposed to be doing at your computer in the first place and stay a while.

Ralph Lauren. Ralph Lauren's House of Prep set the brick-and-mortar shopping standard with their imposing Rhinelander Mansion boutique on Madison Avenue, which features five opulent floors and clerks who resemble runway models. The brand's website recreates the experience on your desktop with gorgeous imagery, extensive style features, and an online-only lifestyle quarterly named, what else, Ralph Lauren magazine. It's also a great place to shop all the company's brands in one place—so if you can't swing that suede-fringe Collection bag, you can scope out the cheaper version, instead.

Nasty Gal. If you like your indie a little bit rock 'n' roll, this is the site for you. Started as an eBay shop featuring vintage and flea market finds in 2006, the brand has expanded to include its own line of trendy, affordable pieces that are both edgy and free-spirited. Prices for Nasty Gal brand skirts, tops, and dresses are mostly under $100, while vintage tends to be in the $100 to $200 range.

Club Monaco: The new-and-improved Club Monaco is a far cry from the sleek, Euro-inspired brand of the early aughts. With the introduction of the brand's e-commerce site earlier this year, you can now shop the fashion-forward novelty pieces, arty prints, and a whole stock of Lauren Merkin and Jane Mayle-designed bags online. Check out their inspiring "Culture Club" Tumblr while you're at it.

Steven Alan. Starting out as a shop for other designers, Steven Alan took on his own line in 1999 and was pretty much an instant hit. His aesthetic—for both his own line and the other indie brands he carries—is casual but perfected, simple but elegant, and definitely comfortable. One of the reasons we keep restocking our closets with his boyfriend shirts and smart dresses is because they feel like they were made to be lived in.

Piperlime. Piperlime is the new Zappos. You can get everything there, from a black-tie gown to this season's printed pajama pants to any of about a million pairs of shoes. The website features frequent deals and, bonus: Since Piperlime is owned by Gap Inc., you can also shop Gap sites and affiliates like Old Navy and Banana Republic in one utterly convenient shopping cart.

Tory Burch. You have to admit that Tory Burch really gets the internet. Her fingerprints are all over the website, from her personal blog (everything from what she's reading and watching to where she's vacationing with her impossibly good-looking sons) to her favorites from the collection. It's almost like she's your friend! Almost.

Need Supply: Like many of our favorite online shopping destinations, Need Supply started as an independent local shop and eventually expanded to the internet. Based in Richmond, the site has a modern feel and affordable price tags (the jewelry and bags are especially great). Stuff tends to sell out really fast, though, so if you like something, jump on it.

Nordstrom: Nordstrom has taken great pains to amp up their fashion-forward appeal this year, and we think they should be rewarded. Between their just-launched exclusive Jason Wu collection, a partnership with Topshop, new and some innovative e-commerce ideas, they've earned their spot on the 38 this semester.

Not enough for you? Here are the updated lists from our sister sites in Boston, Chicago, Philly, New York, LA, and San Francisco.

· Get Your Indie On: The 38 Best Independent Shopping Sites We Could Find on the Internet [Racked]
· Shop Here: Racked National's 38 Favorite Beauty Sites [Racked]